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Tulane’s SAM cleared: The Hullabaloo Online

The Tulane Joint Hearing Board found the Sigma Gamma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity not responsible for four of five charges related to hazing allegations and alcohol violations at Monday’s hearing. The conduct board found the fraternity responsible for violating their interim suspension and not responsible for charges relating to hazing and alcohol violations.
Both Kevin Bailey, assistant vice president for student life, and David Hotz, director of fraternity and sorority programs, declined to comment and deferred to Public Relations Director Michael Strecker.
Tulane placed Sigma Alpha Mu on interim suspension Jan. 15, when it became aware of hazing allegations, Strecker said.
The allegations were made by Curtis Mertensmeyer, who participated in Sigma Alpha Mu pledging last year and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in February after killing Daniel Riemann in a hit-and-run while driving drunk May 11, 2008 in Kansas City, Mo. Mertensmeyer sued Sigma Alpha Mu, Incorporated for post-traumatic stress syndrome that he said resulted from hazing by the fraternity’s Tulane chapter. The PTSS impacted his decision-making abilities in the accident, according to his suit. Tulane decided to follow up on Mertensmeyer’s allegations against the fraternity.
The hearing then began March 9, lasting for seven hours, and reconvened this Monday for another three to four hours, Sigma Alpha Mu President Matt Peterson said.
“They found us not responsible for any of the hazing or alcohol violations — only for non-compliance,” Peterson said. “That involved new members who still had study hours some of the time we were on suspension. As soon as the school told me that was a violation, though, I had them cancel it.”
The conduct board asked Peterson for his preference on sanctions, and he suggested community service.
“It would get us back on the good side of the school, community and students and do some good, instead of just paying a fine,” he said.
The sanctions for violating the interim suspension will be officially handed down in a few days, Strecker said.
“What it comes down to is [the administration] is just doing its job, but it could have been done in a more timely manner, considering we’ve been on suspension for two months on what turns out to be completely false allegations,” Peterson said. “It should have been handled a little quicker, a little more quietly.”
The two-month gap between suspension and the hearing was due to Tulane’s investigation into the allegations.
“As part of the investigation, Bailey and the Tulane University Police Department interviewed the fraternity’s members, its officers and other students,” Strecker said. “An investigation such as this takes time.”
Two fraternity members, Scott Cummings and Matt Noonan, were specifically mentioned in the hazing allegations cleared by the board.
“I especially feel bad for Noonan and Cummings because they were basically picked out of a hat,” Peterson said. “It sucks that our reputation and their personal reputations have been tarnished based on false allegations by a convicted killer.”

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By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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